James Presslow was born in Smithfield, Virginia around 1871. Virginia Washington was born in Petersburg, Virginia in 1879. It is not known when they migrated north from Virginia to New York City, but they were married there in 1901.
In the 1910 US Census, they resided at 241 West 63rd Street; James reported working as a Street Cleaner and Virginia a domestic servant. However, in September of that year, they purchased their home at 155 Liberty Street in Westfield where they would reside for the next 29 years.
In the 1920 US Census, James reports he is a gardener and Virginia is not working. In the 1930 US Census, James provides his occupation as a general jobber.
On January 3, 1939, Virginia dies at home after a lingering illness. Reverend John Collier of St. Thomas AME Zion Church officiated at her funeral. Just two weeks later, Reverend Collier will preside at James funeral, after he died from a stroke.
Having had no children, the Presslow’s bequeathed their home to James’ cousin, Rebecca Pugh. Rebecca had preceded James in moving to the Jerseyland/Turkey Swamp neighborhood and already owned several properties in the area. She lived on Jerusalem Road and described herself as a lifelong missionary in service to her church, St. John’s Baptist Church on Morse Avenue.
When Rebecca died in 1954, she left the house to Kermit Hamlette. In 1956, as other homes were being foreclosed by the Town of Westfield for non-payment of taxes and perhaps motivated to prevent it being foreclosed, Kermit deeded the property to the Town of Scotch Plains. Apparently, Scotch Plains declined to accept the deed for the property, as Kermit Hamlette eventually deeded the property to the Town of Westfield in 1968.
Brightwood Park is on the North end of Prospect Street. Go past Franklin School and look for the entrance on the left.